” Heavy Rain is a hell of an experience. Its controversial control scheme actually works really well in allowing the fantastic story to dictate how events play out, and many of the game’s scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat. It starts slow and the presentation isn’t perfect, but the character development, dialog and story twists will hook you like few games can. Heavy Rain is not to be missed.”
I suppose “controversial” is good enough a term for “endless Quick Time Events that have no rhyme or reason”. This review gushes over the quality of the written dialog, which…eh…doesn’t really hold up. We get such fantastic gems as “Time to be the sexy girl” (from the token female character whose role it is to be naked or a shoe-horned love interest for the main male lead) and “The rain never hurt nobody; c’mon let’s go play” from one of the most insipid flashback sequences I’ve seen anywhere. I suppose you can call the dialog passable–it certainly is dialog, that is words exchanged from two characters to advance the plot. If you ignore the AWFUL delivery of just about every individual line by the myriad voice actors who can’t figure out how to fake sounding French or the fact that much of the dialog serves only to cement how cliche and shallow the plot is, then yes, the dialog will hook you. I was certainly hooked by Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room”, much as watching a train-wreck will hook you too, which is perhaps the most generous comparison I can give to Heavy Rain, so there’s that. It seems to me that Chris Roper has maybe never read a book beyond the instruction manual to a video game, and god knows it’s not like there are examples in gaming of actually good writing and dialog.
1Up.com wrote: “But a game that prides itself on its story is only as good as its writing and actors. The quality and detail of Heavy Rain’s sets are truly spectacular — whether it’s a faded wallpaper pattern or dilapidated apartment, this is a world that feels lived-in and genuine. The characters have a similar gritty realness, but occasionally veer into uncanny valley territory due to some inelegant animations. Regardless, the game conveys a subtlety of emotion that very few games have ever succeeded at.”
A “lived-in” world with the exact same six pedestrian models, all of whom are young-to-middle-aged white people, a world where a drug dealer in a shitty neighborhood lives in a five-room sprawling apartment or a hooker has a spacious and lushly decorated loft or the fact that actually every location in the game, while nice to look at, is completely incongruous and some of them make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Every store and brand is essentially named “Brand”, like “Asthma” brand inhalers or “Video Store” video store. It’s funny at first, but quickly seems to be just plain lazy. The “subtlety of emotion” is wonderfully broadcast by the main character, who is sad because he looks sad the entire game, except for his eyes which never stop staring blankly forward, like a dead fish. Considering the animators took the time to put in nervous habits for many characters, like foot-tapping or twitches of the mouth, it’s odd that no one’s emotive abilities extends to their eyes, and most of the time you have character’s lips flapping up and down while their faces remain completely neutral, even as they’re yelling angrily.
Joystiq wrote: ”
Of all the games on our list, Heavy Rain was the only one whose appearance — even at the most humble position on the pedestal — was called into question. With such apparent spite for the title coursing through our collective veins, you might wonder how it made any showing at all. The answer is indicative of the game’s overall reception in the gaming community’s collective consciousness: Many writers gave the game no weight in the discussion at all, while few gave it just about as much weight as they could possibly throw.”
I read this as them basically saying “Well, actually a lot of people are saying this game is shit but it’s really popular and got great reviews, so it’s on our top ten!” and it makes me laugh a little, a sort of sad, choking laugh that quickly gives way to tears. I also love how all of these reviews point out things that I take issue with–like the questionable voice acting and the primitive animations–yet still reward the game 9’s and A’s, as though they forgot that their “criticism” should carry some weight. I understand that reviewers don’t control the weight and meaning behind their point scores, having to please the myriad of insipid scorehounds and advertisers who just want shiny numbers to slap on the back of their game boxes to drum up sales, but come ON. Can’t we qualify this a little bit? Is it not so hard to say “Well, okay, this part is bad, so I’ll subtract a point”? Either assume a game starts at zero and moves its way up, or starts at 10 and moves its way down–I don’t care, but if you’re not going to take your review system seriously, why the hell should I?
Gamerant says: ”
Does Heavy Rain utilize quick-time events for a number of the game’s action sequences (brawls, shootouts, and a highway chase)? Yes. Is it fair to categorize Heavy Rain as a quick-time game? Absolutely not, because in Heavy Rain, QTEs aren’t patched in as a means of testing the player’s skills or a gimmick to keep you from getting a snack during a rendered cut scene.
The QTEs are as essential to the game as the story because the story continues regardless of your success or failures – which makes the action scenes that much more tense and nerve-racking.”
Bullshit. The QTE’s are a measure of testing a player’s skill, because passing or failing some of the hardest ones dictates who lives and who dies. If you can’t press the buttons fast enough, you fail and somebody dies. Except for the one character who can’t ever die, or the many times where failure doesn’t matter at all, but I digress. The action scenes are thusly not that tense or nerve-racking because most of them just go overlong as an excuse to try and shoe-horn some measure of excitement into a game slower than a stoned snail crawling through molasses. But if this statement is meant to be taken at face value, then are they saying that this game doesn’t test the player, and that the player’s involvement is passive and unnecessary? Hm.
Gamerant said: “In addition, the four playable characters have distinct personalities as well as approaches to following the trail of the Origami Killer. Each character utilizes specific gameplay mechanics (one character might be more analytical, another more physical) offering the player a varied gameplay-experience in a title that could have been hammering the same note too often.”
I’m not exactly sure if they understand the meaning of “gameplay mechanics” because the characters all have the same gameplay mechanics, i.e. press or hold a button for a certain amount of time, or twist a control stick in a specific direction for five seconds to make X happen. The difference in characters is that one has X=punching someone in the face while the other has X=JAYSOOOOOON or SHAAAAAWN! The mechanics only very loosely change when you are playing as the FBI agent, who has the only really interesting gimmick of the bunch, a pair of super-sci-fi glasses that can magically analyze DNA and fingerprints instantly from a crime scene, can ID cars from their tire tracks, and basically do everything you see on CSI (regardless of whether it’s something that can actually be done) and eliminating all actual player involvement from crime-scene investigation beyond “Go here and click this”. Imagine a point and click adventure game without any actual puzzle solving and you’ll have Heavy Rain in a nutshell.
What’s most ludicrous about these reviews is that they all end with something along the lines of “If you are twitch-gamer who only plays teh Haloz or shooty-bang-bang kill games, you’ll hate this game, but the more sophisticated gamer will love it” as some excuse for why they are giving almost perfect scores to an over-hyped boring piece of shit with lousy writing and directing and completely uninspiring gameplay, because anyone–say, me–who argues against the game must clearly by a left-brained neanderthal who can’t enjoy a game unless I’m BOOM headshotting everyone from 100 yards away. But as much as I hold modern shooters with a degree of scorn due to their sameness, at least they have some measure of gameplay. Even the most retarded modern FPS at least is more fun to actually play and, in truth, is a better game because I, the player, have more influence over what happens then I ever do when playing Heavy Rain.
The game lovingly rendered his ass too, so in the first five minutes of gameplay it literally moons us.
I just don’t understand it. Are our game reviewers just hype machines? Are we really going to get perfect scores for games whose only great achievment is being kind of “different”? I know we’re starved for innovation in this industry, but this game doesn’t innovate at all–it just says it innovates. It thinks it innovates, but all it does is craft an utterly insipid, cliche-ridden story with a few really good scenes sprinkled about. And yes, there are good scenes, and even good ideas here and there. I’d love to play a game that only featured FBI-man and his magic know-it-all glasses. Like “The Room”, this game is so bad it’s actually very entertaining. But it’s entertaining in every way it doesn’t want to be. It trumps itself as a serious and gritty story, but all it is is a shallow, superficial piece of pompous crap. It’s an ego piece, and not even a very good one. Everything it does well has been done better by other movies–not games, mind you, but movies, because mere video games aren’t worthy of emulation by auteur David Cage, no sir! Again, I recommend watching this Let’s Play to see this game in action, because you’ll laugh your ass off at all the parts you aren’t angrily demanding it explain any one of its many, many, many plotholes.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so upset at this game if it wasn’t for the fact that there is not one big-name video game publication that gave it a bad score. Not one. And it’s not like this game is a flawed gem or that I’m being overly critical, because believe me, I wanted very much to like this game, I did. I went into it expecting to be able to dismiss the many forum-going naysayers and find the good in it. But within the first hours of the game, if you aren’t bored by the lack of anything substantial to do, you’ll likely just be pissed off by the arbitrary melodrama, the unimaginitve gameplay, and the utter lack of respect for the intelligence of the player, who is expected to just quietly bask in awe at the emotional maelstrom this game revels in. Instead, we have a pretty shit game with some good bits here and there–and yet this game, this fucking game sells 2 million copies on the strength of the nigh-perfect scores it earned across the board. How? How the fuck does that happen?
I guess you could sum up this entry as me disagreeing with someone else’s opinions, and I guess that’s true. After all, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just didn’t find myself riveted by this game, and these reviewers really, genuinely felt it was fun enough to award such sterling scores to. Then again, maybe somebody ought to say “y’know what? This game’s fine, but does it deserve such a high score?” Maybe somebody should point out that IGN and 1Up’s reviews move copies, and if we’re trusting this people to judge a game fairly and not just hype up a shit game for the sake of hype, maybe somebody should say something once in awhile.
I look forward to being ostracized by the gaming journalism community and never being employed by any of these people as a result of this blog post, leaving me penniless and destitute. But maybe it was worth it.